Posted by: Ingrid | December 29, 2016

Keys to surviving your first semester of nursing school

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When people tell you nursing school is hard you should believe them. I had two roommates after I graduated from college who were in the fifth year of their nursing program. I knew they worked hard and yet, going into this semester, I still thought that I would have time to work on pinterest projects and do fun things, at least for the first few weeks. My rationale? I had 216 graduate and undergraduate credits to my name with a 4.0 in all and a degree. I’ve carried 21 credits a semester. I can do school. I took 8.5 credits last semester and I will be the first to tell you that it was hard. And that is an understatement. Here are a few things that you can do to make your transition to a different sort of educational process just a little easier.

  1. Be prepared to lower your standards. Do you value a clean house? Time with friends and family? Travel time? Hobby time? Home cooked meals? Seeing your significant other on a regular basis? Clean laundry that gets put away more than once a week? Nursing school will get in the way of everything you value and you will constantly wonder if you can balance things better or if you should just quit. You can’t do it all. You can’t have it all. Tell yourself it’s only four semesters (unless you’re in a BSN program) and just hang tight and try to cut yourself some slack.
  2. Your teachers don’t hate you or want you to fail. This may seem strange, but since so much is thrown at you at once in nursing school it seems easy to blame the teacher for the hard test, or material not learned, or things you don’t understand. Student nurses are stressed enough and doing poorly on an exam or assignment can suddenly make it seem like a teacher is out to get you. It is interesting being a student married to an instructor because I feel like it gives me a slightly different perspective. I am amazed at how much time nursing instructors pour into students. Classes are small and only yield results after two years and even then your students become nurses only if they pass the NCLEX. Retention is a big deal (we have gone from 22 to 15 students in one semester). These instructors could be making way more money working 3 12’s at a hospital but instead they are dealing with exhausted and stressed students who don’t know how to stage a pressure ulcer yet. Here’s the thing, at the end of two years of taking so many hard exams you aren’t really a nurse until you pass the NCLEX. And the NCLEX, in my mind, is a dispassionate force that doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if you got bad sleep or have test anxiety or if your dog died. It demands you pay hundreds of dollars to see if you are ready to become a nurse. So if tests in school feel difficult and you’re tempted to blame the instructor, remember that they’re trying to prepare you, in the end, to take the NCLEX and pass the first time.
  3. Push yourself. But not too hard. I spent the first 7 weeks doing nothing but nursing homework. Then I got to the beginning of week 8 and didn’t even want to open a book. I was so tired of pouring myself so completely into one thing. To ease the feeling of being owned by the nursing program, I started judiciously reading novels again while nursing Wesley. For perspective’s sake, I read 30 300-500 page novels between June 1 and August 25. Between October 18 and December 16 I read 4. So I really didn’t do that much extra reading but it was still a nice mental break. You have to push yourself enough to get things done but not so much that you want to quit in two months.
  4. Always be working on something. This was so hard for me because I like to work on one thing, get it done, and then move to the next thing. I found that nursing school means you always have multiple things going all the time. Reading for each class, a few study guides to fill out, paperwork to complete, forms to fill out – it just doesn’t end! I would work on some reading, look over power points, and do a certain number of pages a day on study guides, constantly in fear that I would forget to turn something in. Just don’t ever think that you get to stop or take a break.
  5. Follow the rules. This is sort of funny to even say, but it needs to be said. You jumped through all the hoops to get into nursing school but you will find a million more once you get in. Rules and rubric and all sorts of things that have to be remembered and followed. Here’s the thing. You may think it’s silly to have to show up at a certain time, or trade in your unicorn print scrubs for navy blue, or remember a watch with a second hand when you show up for clinicals, or cover up your tattoo. Just do it. If it was worth it to you to get into school it’s worth it to follow the rules to stay there. You won’t lose your individuality in four semesters and it’s just not worth losing the points. You can talk about how much it bothered you to follow your nursing school rules with your therapist once you are an RN and have a job.
  6. Find the things you do that keep you grounded and sane. You will need this. Nursing school is so all-encompassing that you need to keep a few things that make you feel like a human being. For me, it meant continuing to run, cooking (when I had time), and a little fun reading. Just be warned that you can’t do all the things you’d like to do. There just won’t be time.
  7. Be nice. Here’s another one that seems pretty obvious but needs to be said. First, if you want to be very pragmatic, your fellow students will be practicing their first attempts at injections and IV starts on you, so it behooves you to be nice to them. Beyond that, you are in a constant state of stress as a student and you are constantly around other classmates, instructors, stressed and ill patients, and stressed nurses with whom you interact at clinical sites. This is a lot of stress and has great potential for backbiting, gossip, name calling, and all sorts of things that can be very divisive. Yes, people are going to bother you. If you have trouble with another person, go to the individual and deal with it directly. Try to find a person or two who you can say anything to so that you don’t end up with too much pent up frustration. Above all, remember that you have no idea what the people you brush shoulders with are dealing with or thinking at any given time. We watched this little video put out by Cleveland Hospital several times during the semester. Because I am the sort of person who feels like no one ever actually knows what is going on in my head, it makes perfect sense to me and is how I generally look at the world. So you don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but be nice and be polite. It goes a long way.

These are my survival suggestions for semester one, and the list is not comprehensive! If all else fails, turn, cough, deep breathe, and ambulate while eating small frequent meals of green leafy vegetables.

Good luck!

Posted by: Ingrid | December 19, 2016

Belated Seven Months: The lost month

Dear Wesley,

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Do I really remember what you were doing and what amazing developmental milestones you were hitting from November 3rd through December 3rd? Not really. Because clinicals. And finals. And not enough sleep. At the end of the semester everyone was talking about getting more sleep and I’m like, only if someone wants to adopt a cute baby who doesn’t believe in sleeping longer than 3 hours at a time. Right around the beginning of clinical rotations your sleep went south and it has been painful. You wake up every 2 to 3 hours and sometimes stay awake for a few hours. I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep in class. Or on the road. Or while I was trying to feed a patient.

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Aside from the sleep you are a delight. So curious and inquisitive. I can tell that you just want to do all the things. You want to move and sit and crawl. Not that you have figured anything out beyond rolling incessantly, pivoting in circles, and wedging yourself under furniture.

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That has to be one of my favorite (fleeting) stages of baby-hood, when the baby wants to go forward and can’t figure out why they keep scooting backwards. You roll so fast now that we never leave you unattended unless we need to get the camera to take pictures of you falling off the bed (#fourthkid?).

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You can sit if you are placed on the floor, but you haven’t figured out how to get there on your own.

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You are a little mover though!  It’s not pretty, but it’s definitely effective. I should dress you in a Swiffer onesie and let you clean the floor while you roll. You can get up on all fours when you are mad, but that’s about it so far.

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You love your bouncer, you love spoons thrown on the floor, you love playing peek-a-boo, and you LOVE your siblings.

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You also love Grandpa. Sometimes he creeps up the stairs making noises and you are just beside yourself, looking around and trying to figure out where he is.

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We haven’t started you on solids yet because I couldn’t even think for those last few weeks of the semester, let alone start something new. It was hard enough to feed the people who could actually eat. Fortunately you are happy nursing and I was happy to be able to read over my powerpoints for Pharmacology and Fundamentals. And two novels, I won’t lie. So no food yet, but you now sit at the table with us and fling things off your tray. The gravity game never gets old. The game of “grab the cat” is also amping up. Poseidon hates you from afar whenever possible.

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When you do sleep, you almost immediately flip onto your tummy with your bottom in the air. Sometimes you flip while I’m laying you down, which may or may not mean that one time you got dropped because you caught me off guard when you flipped out of my hands.

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At the end of Thanksgiving I made an aside comment while driving the kids around. Probably related to your inability to sleep and along the lines of “I’m going to send you back where you came from.” Your sister piped up from the back and asked, “Back to Miss Joycie’s house, mom?” (your daycare provider – since apparently that’s where you came from?). But no, despite the lack of sleep you have won me over with your agreeable joviality and the fact that you are just so deliciously cute.

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Love,

Mom

Posted by: Ingrid | December 16, 2016

First semester acknowledgements and thanks

Last week, on the final night of clinicals when I was pulling something marvelous together for dinner (probably peanut butter sandwiches or cold pizza), Isaac wandered by, glanced at me speculatively, and asked, So, how many more weeks until mom is a doctor? With a horrified look on his face, my husband assured our child that I was never going to be a doctor because did he have any idea how many years that would take?

That said, I now have one semester of nursing school under my gait belt. Enough time to be properly euphoric that I finished well and properly terrified at the prospect of three more semesters and the NCLEX. Seriously, if you know a nurse, congratulate her on finishing school. If you are a nurse, pat yourself on the back and pour yourself a glass of wine. Who knew this was so difficult?

At the semester’s end, I am overwhelmed with gratitude towards the various people who have made this possible. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it also takes one to send an adult back to school.

To my husband: Who, even at the end of a round of clinicals could still look at me and say, This is worth it. Who is willing to support my dreams even though we are all slightly more insane because of it. Who took 3/4 kids to work almost every weekend so that I could study and dropped 3 kids off at 3 different locations and picked them up almost every school day. Who dealt with me crying, complaining, threatening to quit school, verbally processing catheters and wounds, and going to bed at 8:30 pm – thanks for keeping me moving forward.

To my dad: He graciously stayed an additional few months to help out during the first semester and I am so thankful that he did. Never underestimate the power of a third adult. It was always so sweet to come home to find Grandpa and Wesley hanging out. I have tried without success to think of a way to get him on the “no fly” list without getting him sent to jail just to keep him here for the next semester (or three).

My kids: Who watched in bewilderment as I cried on a weekly basis, lost my temper and apologized more frequently, and forgot to fix dinner often. I feel like I have hardly been around for the last few months. For all that I haven’t had time to make cold lunches for school, do fun things, or even go to the library (couldn’t handle having to keep track of extra books), they still hug me at the end of the day and seem to be okay.

To my friend, Jen, who called me at least an average of 2 times a week all semester long. She even called me and left messages when she knew I wouldn’t pick up, and that’s dedication. Nursing school is isolating, so that really meant a lot. Thanks, friend!

Anyone who made any sort of encouraging remark about not quitting school during the last 16 weeks on Facebook, especially my Aunt J and my FG.

For the scholarship I was granted and subsidized childcare, without which school would be financially impossible, thank you.

To my running shoes, which have put in 409 miles since school started despite a fully messed up schedule and a new baby. You are better than any benzodiazepine or antidepressant without the nasty side effects.

I have never been so excited for Christmas break!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Ingrid | December 1, 2016

Thirty-seven

Once upon a time, for many many years, whenever I arrived at my birthday, all I could think about was how to create a protective shell around the emptiness that I felt. If somehow I could simultaneously have cute clothes that fit, be at the perfect weight, have hair that looked good, whiten my teeth, and figure out the key to makeup application the rest of life would fall into place. If I could organize the chaos of the external, maybe the internal would follow suit and life would be full and meaningful and I would be happy.

It never happened. Life has remained too fluid, too chaotic, and too messy for my external checklist to be realized (though hat tip to Nursing School that has taken off all the baby weight plus a few pounds -thanks!) and I have grown up enough to realize that none of those things would have made me happy anyway.

If anything, these past few months packed with uncertainty, exhaustion, tears, and interesting information and experiences has shown me that you can sometimes feel most alive when you come home exhausted from a long day at clinicals and your kids dog-pile you and clamor to tell you everything that happened and most happy when you lie on the floor with your baby and watch him try to pull the cat’s tail. Life is just weird like that.

This time, as I hit another birthday (and yes, suddenly 37 seems dangerously near to 40 which makes me feel that I’m almost 50 because they are only separated by a decade) I want to remind myself today of things that I might tell myself in another 37 years. I know that if I could now give advice to myself half a lifetime ago I would have such sensible things to say. With that in mind, maybe I can listen to the advice I have been given by people who are further along the path of life than I am.

  1. You can’t do it all. This has never been more apparent to me than right now. I may have dreamed of being mother of 4, doing all the pinterest projects, hanging out with my husband, semi-educating my children at home while reading books and training for an ultramarathon all while going to Nursing School, getting straight A’s, cooking healthy dinners, spending quality time with everyone, keeping the house organized and clean, and being mindful of friendships and self-care. Yeah. The bar has been set way low over here by week 14.  We eat pop tarts. (Who am I kidding, we ate pop tarts before that too, and they aren’t even organic.)
  2. Keep the things that you love and don’t bother with the other things.
  3. Don’t shut down your dreams and ideas (or other people’s). Life is stranger and has more potential than you will ever guess.
  4. Don’t be so hard on yourself. This seems to be a common theme I get from people, including instructors, so I am trying to tell myself now that it’s okay to be my own best ally instead of my worst enemy.
  5. Find the people who make you come alive and don’t despair if it seems like they’re hard to find.
  6. Hug and hold and touch the people you love because you don’t know how long you get them. I have never been more acutely aware of this as I am now as I interact with the elderly population in the hospital and extended care. Take nothing for granted, it’s all a gift.
  7. If you want to say something, don’t wait for people to draw it out of you because they probably won’t and you’ll just be annoyed.
  8. Even if you speak the language of guilt fluently, try not to let it drive everything you do.
  9. Little moments matter more than perfectly fulfilling your plans, especially when kids are involved.
  10. You will never regret loving people more, even if it hurts. And it will hurt.

I think that is plenty of advice to see me through the next year along with the words of Sara Groves in her song This Cup. I generally have some sort of song that I am “feeling” when my birthday rolls around. This year, with life upended and crazy and not enough of me to go around my goal and my prayer is to be right here. Here in the present instead of worrying about what lies a month down the road or wishing life were somehow different; easier and more pulled together.

So take up what we’ve been given
Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

 

 

Posted by: Ingrid | November 5, 2016

6 Months x 4

I hunted through my photo files so that I could see what our four kids looked like at 6 months. I’d forgotten that our first model had teeth and could sit up on his own by 6 months!

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Rothell 1.0

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Rothell 2.0

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Rothell 3.0

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Rothell 4.0

Posted by: Ingrid | November 3, 2016

Six Months: Rolling along

Dear Wesley,

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You are the reason I get up in the morning.

Doesn’t that sound poetic? Now let’s flesh that out a bit. You are the reason I get up in the morning. Before my alarm. At times too early to mention. In short, you are the reason I am sleep deprived.

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You are six months old today, and as I sit here looking at a blank computer screen all I can think about is the fact that I feel more exhausted than I ever remember feeling.  For some reason you have stopped sleeping even four hour stretches and wake up at least every two to three hours each night. Combined with Halloween, school, my first week of clinicals (early mornings), and all of the things that need to get done, this is very painful.

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Aside from sleeping like a 17.6 pound newborn, you are a delightful fat baby with chubby thighs and big blue eyes. You look very much like Jonathan and Lily looked as babies. You are all over rolls, including rolls over your non-existent wrists. You are ticklish on your thighs and knees and belly and under the chin. You laugh easily and have learned how to squeal with delight. Sometimes you do this when I pick you up from day care. More often than not, you save the squeals and talking for the middle of the night between when you wake up and forty-five minutes later when you decide you should eat a little, stop talking to yourself, and start crying in earnest.

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You started this month ponderously rolling from front to back or back to front. It looked so laborious!  So taxing!  Perhaps my favorite instance of rolling involved you rolling from back to front so that you were facing our bookshelf wall. You pushed yourself up on your arms and in slow motion looked up and up and up, miles of books of all colors stretched out to the ceiling. You stayed like that, just taking in the glory of books. That’s my boy.

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You push way up on your belly now, almost get on your knees, pivot on the wooden floors, and roll until you run into something or someone.  Then you wail as if the universe has conspired against you because someone put a wall right in your path. We had to put away your other swing because you were constantly trying to roll out and had turned into quite the fall risk.

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You have also been known to roll yourself up in things; my bathrobe, any blanket you are laid down upon, and, my favorite, your sister’s new Snow White costume with the glittery skirt. This means you now have a fine dusting of gold glitter all over your face and hair this morning. Not all that glitters is gold, sometimes it’s just an overly roly baby and a Halloween costume with a surplus of glitter.

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Some favorites this month are Grandpa, the cat, your lovey, sleeping on your stomach, and trying to grab everything in sight, not necessarily in that order. I am pretty sure Grandpa comes first though, because you hang out with him, smile, make noises when he tries to disappear downstairs… it is pretty cute. You have really taken a liking to Poseidon this month, as he brushes past your bouncer.

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You can’t wait to get your hands on that furry creature, and he is starting to look a little nervous around you. Wait, he’s a cat, he always looks nervous. You really like the soft lovey that you have with different textured tags on the end but in a pinch you are also happy grabbing beards, hair, glasses, and jewelry. You are my first child to be an adamant stomach sleeper which is throwing me off. I lay you down on your back, you yell, flip over, and go directly to sleep.

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You have spent half the month with some respiratory gunk and half the kids in daycare had croup and double ear infections two weeks ago and I am just knocking on everything wooden in hopes that you don’t get really sick. In the meantime, your cap refill looks good, you are happy and eating well, so I’m not too worried. I did try to listen to your lungs and gained a new respect for anyone who works with pediatric patients. When you have a stethoscope on a child’s chest and he starts babbling? Ow.

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I feel like you will be mobile early, like Jonathan was. You are so alert and so interested in the things and people around you that I can almost see you plotting how to get from one place to the other. In other news, you were a dragon for Halloween, wearing the costume all your siblings have worn. But we have no real Halloween pictures because it was the first week of clinicals and man, were things a mess. This month also marked the first time I ran with a baby in a stroller twice in one month. I have lowered the bar that low. You of course fell asleep, but I still prefer solo runs.

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You have been with us for half a year, Wesley! I can’t believe how quickly it is flying by, how sweet you are, and how much we love you.

Love,

Mom

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Posted by: Ingrid | October 4, 2016

Five Months: Talk to the hand

Dear Wesley,

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I blinked and another month slipped by. I really don’t know where September went. Somewhere in the midst of my school and every one else’s school, and activities starting a month has flown past. And this is with me being more attuned to the moment now that time is so precious.

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You have not been idle this past 30 days, oh no. You are now 17.5 pounds (yes, you, who started out at 6 pounds 12 ounces only 5 months ago). You are huge. You have rolls everywhere, you nurse well, and you can suck down a bottle at day care like no one’s business.

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These are all good traits in a baby. On my end of things, I finally, finally saw 0.1 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight and rejoiced. Because people will tell you to be happy with your body because it had a baby and that’s all well and good. But I know that as moms we secretly like our babies just a little more when we no long feel “just a little bit pregnant”. It’s true.

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But I already was so much in love with you that this was just icing on the cake. Or cookies. Or brownies. Or just icing.

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You, my child, are in love with your hands. They mesmerize and distract you and often you really will talk to them. They are like built-in dangly toys. I don’t remember watching the other three kids discover this the way I watch you, perhaps because you are the last or perhaps because each minute I get with you feels precious and not to be wasted. So I notice all the little things, even when I’m tired, and often it brings me to tears because you are growing so quickly and there are no more babies unless I start taking other people’s. And that is often frowned upon and comes with a prison sentence.

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You sleep well, except when you don’t. This means that if I have a test the next day you are likely going to wake up every 2 hours and then the following night you will wake up once. You tend to sleep well though, overall, and I make sure I go to bed very early in order to get my 7-8 hours. Though 9-10 sounds enticing. I still swaddle you and you take a consistently good morning nap.

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After you wake up and stretch, Grandpa takes you to day care, and from the reports I hear, you wake up happy. You are fairly content in the mornings too, when my activities from 6:30-8 am are totally devoted to getting four other people fed, dressed, cleaned, and out of the house with all of their stuff. When you do start getting restless Isaac is often happy to swoop in as your entertainer.

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You are now in size three diapers and have already been in 6 month clothing for a month. You have not sprouted much hair and you definitely don’t have teeth yet, though you are gumming everything in sight. You still try to lick and suck on anything that comes near your mouth. You make lots of noises and your baby belly laughs are the best.

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You love when we blow raspberries under your chin and are are starting to throw your weight around (literally) by pushing off of everything when you are held. It’s a good thing you haven’t been dropped!

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You have also started squirming out of things when not secured, including your car seat. Soon I will lug up the bouncing saucer with the lights and music that your siblings will play ad nauseum. You are practically out of your swing, which is good, since your brothers found other things to put in it…

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Feet have been another big find this month. You have not starting chewing your toes, but you like to grab them and hold on. I have been religiously placing you on your tummy but you haven’t been doing much rolling. Then I was told by our day care provider two weeks ago that you roll. Repeatedly. And you thought I wouldn’t find out. Here’s a secret, buddy. Mommy always knows. (And if I don’t, one of your siblings will tell me.)

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This next month I start clinicals and our schedule changes again with me gone for longer stretches of time. I am enjoying school so much but I hate the way it cuts into my enjoyment of your babyhood. I will keep enjoying the moments I catch, though, because this all just goes way too fast.

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Love,

Mom

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Posted by: Ingrid | September 3, 2016

Four Months: Hands and giggles and day care, oh my!

Dear Wesley,

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This month we did something with you that we have never done with any of our other babies. We took you to day care. Never mind that it’s just next door. Never mind that, what with putting you down to nap at our house and Grandpa taking you over when you wake up you are there just long enough to make it full time (over 5 hours). Never mind that I come home on my lunch break and feed you.

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It is just very weird.  The good news is that you seem to sleep better now, can take a bottle, and seem to be generally happy. This bodes well for when I enter clinicals and am gone from 5 am to 4 pm and then have to write up my notes. Our first child to take a bottle. I am so proud. Other notable events included your brother’s 7th birthday and a visit from Uncle Peter.

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You are right at 15.5 pounds, with the most delectable rolls of wrist fat.  Grandpa has you doing leg and arm exercises, but they are no match against your delightful baby rolls. I feel like you have gotten so big, so manly, in a Michelin man sort of way. Your ears aren’t quite as flush against your head as they were, giving you a Yoda-esque look.

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You discovered your hands this month and spend a great deal of time staring at them. Sometimes you watch, mesmerized, as your fists pass in front of your face and then go cross eyed as they meet in the middle.

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I picture it as the baby equivalent of an epic scene from Star Wars. All you see is stars and the vastness of space and then, out of the darkness… the Death Star appears!  You look at your hands with great wonder and in the past few days I have noticed you sending speculating glances towards your toes.  Those… things. They seem so far away but maybe they are attached too?  I can’t wait for you to start chewing on your toes.

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Your brothers and sisters still like you. Lily likes to choose your pjs and clothes and Isaac likes to scoop you up and hold you. Your expression tends to mirror your feeling about the trustworthiness of whichever sibling is paying attention to you.  I wouldn’t trust a two year old with a stethoscope around her waist either.

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Jonathan will generally pat your head when he notices you. You can roll over. Sometimes. You can also push yourself with your feet, which has led to some unfortunate situations for you as you push off your tummy time blanket and face plant on the floor. You have very nice head and neck support and I try to remember to put you on your tummy whenever I think about it. You have been sleeping really well lately, in 7 and 8 hour stretches, which I so appreciate.

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You have they most delightful smile and laugh. You laugh and snort when I run my fingers from your tummy to your chin, when we lift you high in the air, and when I suddenly bring you close to my face. Your laugh is my favorite right now. Last night I was lying on my back with you propped against my knees as you did baby rowing. I held your hands and moved you forward and back and you thought it was hilarious.

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Your smile appears out of nowhere and often you stick your tongue out as well.  You are a shameless flirt, leaving broken hearts and a trail of drool in your wake. Everything makes you open your mouth. It’s fun to kiss your cheeks over and over because you open your mouth wide, like a baby bird, each time.

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You like to have something in your mouth; your hand, a blanket, anything you can make contact with, but you won’t take a pacifier.

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Last night we got a fairly defined “hi” out of you. I remember with Isaac that when that happened we felt like we must have a genius baby on our hands. Now the sounds are just fun. I love hearing you make sounds (this month you added the age appropriate “agoo” and “gah” to the mix). You are very loud. Loud when you talk and even louder when you vocalize your complaints, generally when you feel ignored or if you’ve spent too much time on your belly. You have voice inflection down and you truly believe in what you are saying.

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You have started actually touching things with your hands. A few nights ago as I was lying next to you on the bed you reached over and touched my face.  These are the things I cherish now that I’m on my fourth baby.

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Love,

Mom

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Posted by: Ingrid | August 28, 2016

Seventy-Eight M&M’s

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So the first week of the first semester of nursing school is in the books. That would be 1/15 of the way through, in case you are counting.

This week one of our instructors told a story I’d read or heard at some point in the past. It was about (in a very brief and poor synopsis) a man who realizes that if he lives to be in his seventies, he only has 1000 Saturdays left. He puts 1000 marbles in a jar and every Saturday pulls a marble out.  He uses this visual to cherish the time he has and knows that once all 1000 are gone, if he gets another Saturday it’s a gift. The challenge was for us to appreciate the time we have it school because it will go by too quickly.

I came home from that class and filled a jar with 78 M&M’s, one for each day of instruction during this first semester of nursing school.

Now, just to be tangential, why has no one told me about the autumn M&M mix? These giant, delectable, white chocolate morsels have been sitting in my pantry ever since I bought them clearanced out last November. I didn’t know they were this good. And I’d be a fool to choose marbles over chocolate, anyone with common sense knows that. Also, I have an up-and-coming crawler and the Legos all over the floor will be choking hazard enough, I definitely don’t need marbles. This was my rationale for going with candy.  Also, way cheaper.

I put them in a jar with the idea of watching them decrease as the semester goes on. I even color coded them; my clinical days are the white ones. I’m hoping no one else eats them before I do. There are many resourceful people in this house and I wouldn’t put it past any of them.

78 days is not very many. It does not feel like nearly enough time to learn what I need to and to learn it at whatever percentage of proficiency I am supposed to achieve. Part of the problem is that not only are these 78 days of my education, they are 78 days of Isaac’s first grade year, of Jonathan’s new preschool, Lily’s daycare, and Wesley’s infanthood. 78 days during which I want to be the best student I can while knowing that at the end of the day I am also my children’s best advocate, their model, their source of all sorts of things at the top of Maslow’s pyramid but also their source of food and clean clothing, and heaven knows that took a back seat this first week.

Even though it may sound silly, I have been sitting down for just a few minutes every day and picturing this opportunity as a gift. If I don’t do this, I am afraid that I will be overwhelmed by the enormity of change that has occurred. I am old enough to not take this for granted, old enough to know that everything falling into place so that I can go to school, from the childcare to the location of the school to having my Dad here the first semester, are all part of the gift. Not an easy gift (but neither was staying home with my children for seven years) and definitely one in which challenge is inherent.

This is not the type of gift where someone hands you the keys to a prefabricated home. This is a harder gift. More along the lines of someone dropping a ton of bricks and gallons of mortar in your yard and handing you a book entitled 1,001 Steps to your new brick home (some assembly required).

I have a lot to do, a lot to prioritize, and not enough hours in the day to do 75% of what needs to get done. Breathe, study, hug children, feed people, sleep, run, repeat.  That is what I will do for now.

And every time I eat an M&M, I will be thankful.

Posted by: Ingrid | August 3, 2016

Three Months: Bubbles and Smiles

Dear Wesley,

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This month was delightful.  We celebrated the Fourth of July in South Dakota and returned home a few days later, driving a full 10.5 hours (longer with stops) in one day.  Other excursions have involved dressing like a cow for free Chik-fil-a and visiting a battle ground from 1869. The summer seems to have flown by, June and July have ticked down and now it is August and summer is on it’s way out.

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You have magnanimously granted me several 8 hour stretches of sleep.  The couple of days when 7.5 to 8 solid hours coincide with a 5 am wake up have been bliss. You nap well too, though I find myself bellowing, “Shhhhhhhh!” more often than I prefer because your siblings are so darned loud.

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Speaking of siblings, they still like you and you are still alive, so this is all good. Isaac remains your devoted fan and has to be told not to wake you too early in the morning.  He wakes up early, comes into our room, and just stares at you.  He is the most tenacious at trying to get smiles from you and to get you to “talk”.

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He also will hold you. Lily still likes you and pays attention to you and Jonathan enjoys you as well.  Everyone is willing to hang out with you during tummy time.  Speaking of which, you rolled a few times this month, but not consistently.

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You drool in great bubbly trails now, and are sometimes called Mr. Bubbles.  Other nicknames include Bubby and Baby Beluga. You actually sound like you speak Whale now.  Sometimes you look like a cross between Buddha and Chris Farley.  All of our kids, including Lily, went through a Chris Farley stage.  I blame your father. You have reached one of the best milestones EVER, the one where you make eye contact and start making sounds like you are trying to carry on a conversation.

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I love this.  You do this to almost anyone once you lock in on them.  All of these sounds come out of your mouth and sometimes you are so serious, though mostly you look happy and animated.  A few times, when you have been placed in your swing, I have caught you loudly complaining to the pink birds that circle overhead. Most of the time you see them and smile and coo.

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You are now almost 14.5 pounds. I weighed you last night, stepped on the scale and wondered how I was still so close to my peak pregnancy weight and how I’d gained 18 pounds since the morning. I stepped on again and off again twice before I realized that I was holding a baby. When you had your doctor’s visit this month I asked the nurse about your head size since all the other babies in our family are in the 97% percentile at this point.  You were at 50% so I came home and told your dad that you might not be his.  (I kid, of course, just look at the resemblance!)

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You are into size 2 diapers and quickly growing out of 3 month clothing.

When you cry, usually when you are hungry or have been left unattended too long, you sound like a little deranged goat.  Often if I come up to you and place my hand against your chest you immediately calm and start flirting with me and conversing.  You also seem to feel wet and dirty diapers more acutely than your siblings did because changing your diaper is almost a personality changer.

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You are suddenly all smiles and jokes. You have laughed a few times, some of them in your sleep just as you finished nursing.  You are a great eater and I am enjoying my reading time, though now that I have breezed through the Ender’s Game series I am going through literary withdrawals.  Sometimes I just watch you eat – it always amazes me how fat babies get drinking milk and how proficient they are in just three months.  You still really like to suck and often finish eating and then promptly start sucking your clenched fists as if they are a giant lollipop.

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You are a delightful, jovial, and fairly easy baby, Wesley.  Hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself by typing that!  I love the transition from month two, when smiling looks so taxing for babies, to month three when it comes so naturally. Smiley, fat, babbling babies are a delight.  And delicious.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t talk about wanting to eat your cheeks and nibble your fingers.  I remember being horrified when people said that with Isaac and now I am the crazy lady who wants to eat the baby.

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We left you for the first time this past week.  For four hours we attended a wedding without children.  I felt just a little lost, but it was fun all the same to not have to spend half the time somewhere feeding you.  This is a natural divide that I have found with all my babies, the three month mark is when leaving them with someone else sounds like a really good idea.  Usually this starts with the church nursery, but not this time.  You still like to eat in the middle of the sermon and last week, you entertained the quadrant of church we were sitting in by giving a long satisfied belch as soon as I quietly brought you back into church.  It was awesome.

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You are enjoying the mirror more these days, particularly when we gaze into it together and you smile brilliantly at the mommy-in-the-mirror and gaze quizzically at the other baby.  I am trying to soak in all of these moments, knowing that the pace of life is going to drastically increase in just a few weeks.  Half of me thinks there’s no way I can leave you for 6-8 hours a day.  Half of me thinks it will be just fine, particularly since I will be in and out to feed you. But it will be different, I know that. So I cherish and savor the moments and your easy smile and jovial ways. A quarter of the year has already passed in the blink of an eye. I don’t know that I can deal with time flying by any faster.

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Love, Mom

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